Our brand-new boarding house, which is set to open in September is already full, with fourteen pupils due to move into our boarding house, The Dairy, for the 2019/20 academic year. On arrival, our boarders will be greeted by the school’s new houseparents, Jacomien and Piet Du Toit.
The couple, who have two children, will be moving into the Woolverstone-based Grade II-listed building during the summer holidays.
Mrs Du Toit, currently a housemistress of a girls’ boarding house at Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, said: “The prospect of enjoying the natural beauty of Ipswich High School’s campus is something our whole family is looking forward to. We both grew up on farms in South Africa and consequently appreciate our surroundings very much. The aesthetic appearance of the Woolverstone Hall, Dairy House, the new up-to-date boarding facilities and the pleasing view over the River Orwell is all part of the pull to the school.”
The Dairy will house 14 boarders with a mixture of UK and international students.
Mrs Du Toit added: “For a boarding pupil, the new environment away from home is probably very different to what they might be used to. While the prospect of boarding will be exciting, settling into their new home, and possibly a new country and culture, may cause some apprehension. We will have a mix of local and international pupils in the boarding house which will enable us to learn from one another and appreciate the similarities and differences between us. This will help us to create our sense of community. Houseparents are there to provide a caring, friendly home from home atmosphere which enables pupils to flourish in their new environment and grow into well-rounded, happy young people.”
She added: “Significant challenges come under the umbrella of wellbeing. Parents worldwide will understand the challenges faced by teenagers in the daily and frequent onslaught of social media. Helping our boarders to manage this is a vital aspect of how we keep them safe.”
Mr Du Toit, who is a mathematics teacher and boarding tutor at St Joseph’s College in Ipswich, said the focus in establishing the boarding house is integrating pupils with the rest of the school community. “Setting up the boarding house for the new boarders will not be a significant challenge for us, as settling-in new boarders is part of everyday boarding life and is a big part of what we love about the role,” he added.
“After years of working in boarding, we were very excited to be offered the opportunity to be part of something that does not arise very often in the boarding community: setting up a brand new boarding house from scratch and being able to create a unique boarding experience for our pupils. Setting up a new venture will be challenging but very rewarding.”
Mr and Mrs Du Toit said that although houseparents are a significant part of a pupil’s boarding life, there will be a whole team providing support including the matron, the resident graduate assistants and fellow staff members who will help with duties.
Mrs Du Toit said: “We will spend many hours in a day with the pupils and the ethos in the house and the academic support are some of the important issues that we will have to establish and provide to ensure a happy environment for the pupils. We have both been bowled over the by the caring ethos of the school in every aspect we have encountered. We feel a genuine sense of trust in the people we have met, and this has instilled in us an ambition to succeed.”
The couple, who met while studying at Stellenbosch University near Cape Town, moved to the UK in 1997 when Mr Du Toit got a job as a maths and IT teacher at Caterham School.
They then moved to Royal Hospital School in 2007 where Mr Du Toit taught IT and Mrs Du Toit taught food and nutrition and were both involved with boarding.
They have two sons PC, 19 is studying biology at Nottingham University, and Basson, 17, will be completing his final year of school from September.
Further developments will take place at the school, which became co-educational in September 2018, over the next year to expand the boarding to accommodate 55 students in the next two academic cycles.